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Window on Eurasia — New Series: 1552 has been Viewed as Battle Between Russian and Tatar Nations for Less than a Century, Aksanov Says


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – Today, Tatars are marking the anniversary of Ivan Grozny’s conquest of Kazan, an event that they view as part of the national struggle between Russians and Tatars. But that view did not exist until just under a century ago, Anvar Aksanov says, because in 1552, there was neither a Russian nation nor a Tatar one.

            Instead, the Kazan historian who specializes on the Golden Horde says, the idea that this was a national struggle between Russians and Tatars arose only in 1923 in a book by Mikhail Kudyakov “when in our country, nation building was proceeding at full bore” (business-gazeta.ru/article/484939).

            Projecting the existence of nations into the past far before they existed gets in the way of understanding what was really going on and what it means even now, Aksanov continues. What in fact was an effort by Muscovy to take control of Middle Volga trade routes on its way to creating a great Orthodox Christian empire.

            That means that the fall of Kazan in 1552 was “a tragic page in Muslim history.” As far as the Kazan khanate is concerned, it had existed for only 114 years before it fell, just “half a century more than the Soviet Union.” It too was not a national state and suffered from serious problems, the Kazan historian says.

            Neither Muscovy nor Kazan was a state based on a nation. That is because at the time, neither had a nation. “In simple terms, a nation is a very large community of people that could be organized only in modern times and in our country only in the most recent period as a result of a powerful technological leap forward and global changes in cultural and civilizational guides.”

            In the 16th century common era, “a period of traditional society, there existed only less sizeable and stable communities, ethnoses and strata” as well as religious groups.  And it is worth remembering that the Christianization of the residents of the khanate was not that effective and that mosques reappeared.

Window on Eurasia — New Series